In this day of age, it’s easy for anyone to jump on the computer and great deal deals on travel. It doesn’t take an special training or certifications, just an internet connection. Thanks to companies such as Travelocity, Hotwire and a slew of others it is simple to book and go. We don’t really need a travel agent to book travel anymore, however, travel agents still exist. Why? What are the functions of a travel agency? How do travel agents make money? And exactly what do travel agents do?
In this post, we’ll be answering these questions and we’ll leave it up to you to decide if you want to use one next time you travel.
Functions of a Travel Agency
So why do travel agencies still exist? If it is so easy to book cheap travel why waste the time (and potentially pay more) to use an agent. Well, the functions of a travel agency go beyond just booking your travel. A good travel agent knows the ins and outs of travel. What you’re doing part-time to research destinations or transportation on your lunch break, they do full time. They know when to book travel, where to book travel, and how to book travel.
Sometimes, a seasoned veteran of the travel industry can score you a better deal on your travel. Some travel agents do get better deals on certain packages. They have created relationships with their vendors to be able to do so.
They often know the best day of the week to buy airline tickets, when holiday packages go on sale, and how long the rainy season lasts on a specific island. I know that with enough time and some google queries you can probably find most of that information on your own. However, with a travel agent, you’re paying for the convenience of not having to do so.
Some travel agents specialize in certain areas of travel. For example, an old employer of mine hired travel agency to book all of their business travel. With so many people traveling so much of the time, it just saved them so much money to contract out travel arrangements. They would have had an extra person on staff just to get people to the right places.
Other travel agents specialize in setting up complex group tours, such as cruise packages or mission tips. Setting up travel for a family reunion, language club or alumni group could be a logistical nightmare for most, but travel agents handle that sort of thing all of the time.
Other agents pick a specific destination and become an expert on just that location. In this way, they become a very valuable resource. Speaking with someone who is an expert on a specific location can save you a lot of time and in some cases heartache. Imagine booking a week stay in a city during an annual festival that causes major traffic and gridlock. Travel agents who specialize in specific destinations know the details and quirks of their specialties. Good agents become almost as knowledgeable as locals and you’ll have an insider helping to plan your trip.
Believe it or not, there are still some people out there that book all of their travel through a travel agent. Are they saving any money? Probably not- but they are saving the time and hassle of the research that comes along with getting deals and becoming educated on destinations. What it comes down to in many cases is a trade of money for time. You’re paying someone else to help plan your vacation so you can spend more time doing whatever it is you do.
It’s similar to the visiting a nice restaurant. Sure you can cook at home, but wouldn’t you rather talk and enjoy conversation while your food is being cooked than stand over a hot stove. Plus, the quality of food you’re getting from a chef who has devoted time to learn the craft will most likely be better than something you’ve thrown together last minute with a recipe online.
Travel agents can be quite useful in other ways, for example, arranging passports and visas, recommending vaccines and medicine for foreign travel, and help with currency conversion. Some people may opt for a travel agent if they are dealing with a stressful situation such as the loss of a loved one, and would rather not spend time booking the trip and instead focus their attention on planning the funeral.
Someone in Your Corner
Agents fight for you as a traveler. They know that flights are delayed, storms weather and people get sick. They will be on your side through your travel experience from start to finish. When you book yourselves you’re on your own. If your flight is canceled and now you’re cruise is leaving without you, it is up to you to figure it out.
If a disaster like this ever strikes and you’ve booked with a travel agent you’ll have someone on your team making sure that things get back on track. Agents often have additional pull in this area, especially if they’ve worked in the past with a specific resort or cruise line. The best agents will bend over backward to make sure your trip is smooth.
Who Still Uses Travel Agents
Many celebrities use travel agents to book their trips because they can take care of all the details including making sure transportation is there to pick them up curbside, getting extra security at their hotel, and even shutting down an entire restaurant so they can eat a private meal.
As mentioned many companies, churches, schools and other groups requiring a lot of traveling. It can cut down on a lot of work when booking for a lot of people.
Anyone looking to save time and energy in the researching and booking process can reach out to a travel agent for help booking travel.
How Do Travel Agents Make Money
Many people that consider booking with a travel agent have the same question. How do travel agents make money? After all, you want to know what their services will cost you, right? Depending on the agent or agency and what exactly they’re helping you do can determine how exactly they get paid.
In the past this was the main source of income for travel agents. Book with a certain airline or cruise line and get x amount of dollars in return. Most of these commissions are percentage based and agents are paid after you pay for your travel. Commissions are nice for you because they are paid for by the company being booked. You’re not paying extra out of pocket for them. However, it should be noted that over the years many of these commissions are disappearing. Airlines don’t pay commissions anymore to keep their rates competitive. Many other travel industries taking are cutting back on these commissions as well.
Because commissions are non-existent from airlines and are becoming harder to come by from resorts and cruises, many agents charge a flat rate for their services. These booking fees are added to the base rate of your travel costs. These flat rate fees can vary greatly and like many services, often times you get what you pay for.
Some agencies will charge an hourly rate for travel consults. If you’re looking for advice or smaller trips this may be the way to go.
It is important to know that often times if you let an agent know what you’re looking and your budget they may be able to make a custom booking fee that fits your needs.
Some companies that travel agencies work with offer bonuses for hitting certain goals. Just like many sales companies a bonus or cash or travel is offered as an incentive for selling certain products or destinations. A concern of some travel agency skeptics is that agents may push trips that will earn them extra bonuses. Reputable agents won’t do this, they’re more focused on you having a great time. They know they’ll make more money with a return customer than a short-lived sales bonus.
Travel agents may seem like an old and outdated job, but there really is still a need for them in our society. They offer a lot of travel wisdom and can save a bunch of time. Would you use one to book a quick weekend getaway to Vegas? Probably not- as there are quite a few resources out there for that location. Would you use one to book a complex backpacking trip through Southeast Asia? There’s a definite possibility.
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